Kabul Bank fraud: Sherkhan Farnood and Khalilullah Ferozi jailed
Two former chiefs of Afghanistan's Kabul Bank have been sentenced to five years in jail for the multi-million dollar fraud that almost led to its collapse in 2010.
Founder Sherkhan Farnood and ex-CEO Khalilullah Ferozi were found guilty of theft at a special court.
Revelations of massive corruption led to a run on the bank in 2010.
Foreign donors bailed it out fearing its failure could lead to the collapse of Afghanistan's fragile economy.
The country's future aid contributions could have been jeopardised if no action had been taken against those responsible for the fraud, reports the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.
It's hard to underestimate the threat that the Kabul Bank scandal posed to the country. When it broke there was a worry that it could bring down the entire Afghan economy and bring the international mission here to a standstill.
It ranks, at around 5% of the Afghan economy, as one of history's biggest ever banking scandals. Bringing those responsible to justice has been a slow process, but prosecutions were seen as essential.
It barely functioned as a bank, its prime purpose appeared to be funnelling money out of the country, into the hands of the richest, best connected, in Afghan society.
Even though Tuesday's sentences are relatively light, and there's much scepticism that they will be served in full, they will allow the international community, which bailed out the bank, to begin to draw a line under the scandal.
It was seen as a test of Afghanistan's commitment to addressing corruption and stabilising the economy.'Not Bollywood'
In addition to the jail sentence, Farnood has been fined $288m (£190m) and Ferozi $530m (£350m) by the Kabul Bank Special Tribunal - the value of the assets they are deemed to have stolen from the bank. They have the right to appeal.
Twenty-one other employees were also sentenced by the court to between two and four years. Of those, five are considered to be missing or to have left the country.
One of those who fled was the former head of Afghanistan's central bank, Abdul Qadeer Fitrat, who arrived in the US in 2011 saying his life was in danger.
He was sentenced to two years in prison for misusing his authority and failing to inform the government of what was happening inside Kabul Bank.
At the time he fled he denied any wrongdoing and said he was under threat because he had named prominent figures in connection with the scandal.
There were also dramatic exchanges in court between the two main defendants Farnood and Ferozi, the Agence France-Press news agency reported.
Farnood insisted that he had already paid his debts, as his properties in Dubai and Kabul were confiscated. He also accused Ferozi of being the prime culprit.
"If this is not jungle law, let this count," he is quoted as saying from the dock.
Kabul Bank Timeline
- 2004: Kabul Bank founded by international poker player, Sherkhan Farnood
- September 2010: Kabul Bank taken over by the central bank after a run on the bank amid fears of its collapse
- February 2011: Abdul Qadeer Fitrat, central bank governor, tells BBC those involved in bank's woes should be prosecuted
- February 2011: An IMF report recommends the bank be put in receivership
- April 2011: Mr Fitrat, names in parliament prominent Afghan figures in connection with the Kabul Bank scandal
- May 2011: Report by anti-corruption office shows $467m (£290m) of outstanding loans were made without appropriate collateral
- June 2011 Mr Fitrat flees to the US saying his life was in danger
- June 2012: Special tribunal for Kabul Bank set up by Afghanistan's Supreme Court
- November 2012: Independent leaked report from Kroll auditors finds the bank funnelled almost $900m to small political elite
Ferozi replied, saying: "This is not Bollywood where one can act like a hero. Everything is on paper."
The two men have the right to appeal.
The brothers of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Vice-President Mohammed Fahim were among the shareholders of the bank, but they have not been prosecuted and have consistently denied any wrongdoing.'Sham'
These are the first convictions handed down by the tribunal since it began proceedings after it was set up by the Supreme Court last year to deal with the corruption revelations.
The bank handled most of the government payroll, including salaries for policemen and teachers.
But in fact this was a sham, reports our correspondent, as its main purpose appears to have been to ferry hundreds of millions of dollars out of Afghanistan.
A report by an independent auditor leaked in November 2012 showed that the vast majority of the bank's loans - almost $900m (£561m) - were made to just 19 people and companies.
An earlier finding by Afghanistan's anti-corruption office said that $467m (£290m) of outstanding loans had been made without appropriate collateral.
Our correspondent says that much of the stolen money is unlikely to be recovered.